The Death Of Porn Star August Ames: How Cyberbullying Led To Suicide

Published December 11, 2017
Updated June 7, 2021

The suicide of August Ames has been largely explained as the result of depression and cyberbullying — but other factors may have been at play.

August Ames

InstagramAugust Ames

Adult film star August Ames was found dead by suicide in December 2017, mere days after she tweeted about not wanting to perform with male porn stars who also do gay porn. Her vehement hesitance to work with “crossover” talent was met with stringent accusations she was homophobic.

According to Newsweek, her husband Kevin Moore was convinced that it was this flood of internet bullying and cyberstalking that pushed Ames over the brink. His perspective on the matter was published on Ames’ website and announced in a tweet from her account as “the truth.”

In the years following her untimely death, this narrative has been solidified as, well, “the truth.” Investigative journalist and author Jon Ronson, however, has uncovered a litany of facts that likely contributed to her suicide that were largely left out and overlooked in the wake of her passing.

Ronson’s podcast series, The Final Days of August, is molded in the vein of Serial — which famously enthralled millions as its host reinvestigated the murder of teenager Hae Min Lee and subsequent imprisonment of Adnan Syed.

So what exactly led a successful 23-year-old porn star to take her own life? Was it really the result of tweets, and an inability to take in digital criticism from strangers? Did she have an abusive childhood? What were her final days like, and what other hardships were troubling her during this time?

Let’s delve into the final days of August Ames and assess.

The Death Of August Ames

Born Mercedes Grabowski, Ames performed in over 270 porn scenes throughout her short, four-year stint as an adult film star. According to Rolling Stone, she garnered over 600,00 Twitter followers before she died.

In 2015, Ames was nominated for Best New Starlet by the Adult Video News (AVN) awards. She was even nominated for Female Performer of the year for the 2018 ceremony before she killed herself. Clearly, the career itself wasn’t a factor in her suicide — or was it?

Despite her successes, the Nova Scotia native was found dead in her California home before she could furnish it with a trophy. The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed she died from asphyxiation via hanging.

August Ames At AVN Awards

Wikimedia CommonsAugust Ames attending the 2014 AVN awards in Las Vegas. She was nominated Best New Starlet the following year, and was up for Female Performer of 2018 before she died.

“She meant the world to me,” said the bereaved 43-year-old Moore in a statement. Countless fans and colleagues mourned Ames’ passing online, describing her as “the most kind-hearted person ever,” and “a beautiful light.”

Some of her actual friends, however, were accusing Ames’ adult film colleagues of contributing to her death. It all began with a series of tweets Ames published a few days before she committed to her final act on Earth.

August Ames And Homophobia In Porn

Two days before her death, Ames warned whoever was taking over her upcoming shoot — which she allegedly dropped out of — that they would be collaborating with “crossover” talent. These performers appear in both gay and heterosexual porn.

Ames’ message was seen as derogatory by some, as it suggested that males who do gay porn are more likely to have, and thus spread, sexually transmitted infections (STI) or diseases (STD). She called the casual inclusion and hiring of these actors “BS.”

Her tweet resulted in a flurry of angry replies that accused her of homophobia and discrimination against those in the LGBTQ community. Ames initially defended her stance as a mere warning to the actress replacing her, assuring fans she harbored no ill will against homosexuals.

She then claimed that most porn actresses don’t work with men who have done gay porn — “for safety” reasons. Ames explained that she was unwilling to put her body at risk in that manner, as if required testing for STDs and STIs was different for straight and gay performers.

Her family and friends said Ames was suffering from depression at the time of her death. The so-called cyberbullying merely exacerbated feelings of low self-worth and made them unbearable. The issue became a public rallying cry for her family in the wake of her suicide.

“I want my sister’s death to be recognized as a serious issue — bullying is not OK,” her brother James told The Independent. “It cost me my baby sister’s life. I will do what I can to be a voice for Mercedes but right now my family and I need to be left alone to grieve — we have lost a loved one.”

Was James right, or was there more to his sister’s death than a barrage of tweets that met her at a mental low point?

The Final Days Of August

Ronson said “it’s impossible to know” what exactly drove Ames to kill herself.

“There were many factors that led to her suicide, some were terrible and some were…human and small,” he said.

“So I think it would be wrong to say that any single factor led to her suicide. Would she be alive today? That’s an impossible question to answer because she was so upset what happened in Las Vegas and how that triggered and something else may have.”

Ronson alluded to an incident in Las Vegas in his comment, where six weeks before Ames’ death she did a scene with Russian porn star Markus Dupree. Ronson believes his domineering style may have triggered deeply negative feelings for Ames — a stance supported by text messages she sent after the shoot.

Ames told her friend that Dupree went “full on War Machine” on her, referencing Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver — a professional fighter who was sentenced to life in prison for attacking his porn star girlfriend Christy Mack.

In terms of Ronson’s podcast, this is merely one of the many avenues he and his co-host Lina Misitzis go down to find potential motivations. Another is abuse Ames said she experienced as a child, while yet another is the possibility that Moore — her husband — may have been an overbearing bully himself.

Ames’ brother certainly felt there was something to that particular aspect. Ronson made sure to keep Moore up to speed, in terms of the subject matter he was exploring in his podcast, but Moore was vehemently opposed to share any insight — or even listen to the finished product.

“He told us he didn’t want to hear it,” said Ronson. “I’ve been in touch with him pretty consistently, he knows exactly what’s coming. We’ve been upfront with him, there’s nothing he won’t already know…[If he did listen] I don’t think it would surprise, I think we’ve told him everything in it.”

Ultimately, the tragic facts remain — a 23-year-old woman took her own life after experiencing a sense of being virtually hounded and critiqued by many in her own industry. Whether it was this, her depression, a combination of the two — or more we have yet to uncover — is unsure. For Ronson, it’s been a tough line to walk.

“I always want to be an ethical person and writer,” Ronson explained. “This was more complicated than normal.”

After reading about the tragic death of August Ames, read about two children’s suicides that forced their parents to confront their schools about the effects of cyberbullying.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That's Interesting.